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Strange Bedfellows? Attitudes toward Minority and Majority Religious Symbols in the Public Sphere

  • Antoine Bilodeau (a1), Luc Turgeon (a2), Stephen White (a3) and Ailsa Henderson (a4)


In this study, we contend that distinguishing individuals who support bans on minority religious symbols from those who want to ban all religious symbols improves our understanding of the roots of opposition to minority religious symbols in the public sphere. We hypothesize that both groups are likely driven by markedly different motivations and that opposition to the presence of minority religious symbols in the public sphere may be the result of an alliance between “strange bedfellows,” clusters of individuals whose political outlooks usually bring them to opposite sides of political debates. Drawing on a survey conducted in the province of Quebec (Canada), we find that while holding liberal values and low religiosity are key characteristics of those who would ban all religious symbols, feelings of cultural threat and generalized prejudice are central characteristics of those who would only restrict minority religious symbols. Negative attitudes specifically toward Muslims, however, also appear to motivate both groups.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Antoine Bilodeau, Department of Political Science, Concordia University, Henry F. Hall, 1455 De Maisonneuve West, Montreal H3 G 1M8, Canada. E-mail:; or to: Luc Turgeon, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Social Sciences Building, 120 University, Ottawa K1N 6N5, Canada. E-mail:; or to: Stephen White, Department of Political Science, Carleton University, B640 Loeb Building, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa K1S 5B6, Canada. E-mail:; or to: Ailsa Henderson, Department of Political Science, University of Edinburgh, 3.09 Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH 9LD, United Kingdom. E-mail:


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We want to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The survey used in this study was made possible thanks to the financial support of the following organizations: the Secrétariat aux affaires intergouvernementales canadiennes of the Quebec government, the Institute for Research on Public Policy, the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, the Chaire de recherche canadienne en études québéboises et canadiennes de l'Université du Québec à Montréal, and Concordia University. The authors remain solely responsible for the interpretation of the data.



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